Printer Friendly

A specialized approach to job readiness training.

Finding an appropriate job, worrying about layoffs, receiving fair and equitable compensation - these are major concerns for all adults. Historically, however, vocational options for individuals with profound and/or multiple disabilities, and particularly those who are deaf-blind, have been limited to a narrowly defined continuum that includes work activity centers, sheltered workshops and, less frequently, competitive employment. The provision of employment services that enable people who are visually and hearing impaired, or deaf-blind, to experience success in the community and the job market has been a challenge.

At the Helen Keller National Center (HKNC), Sands Point, NY, students receive comprehensive rehabilitation training. The program focus is the provision of personal adjustment training in communication skills, orientation and mobility, daily living skills, home management, work skills training, and other areas related to increasing the capacity of the individual to participate more fully in his or her home community.

Vocational Evaluation:

Standardized Versus Functional


Few vocational evaluation tests and procedures have been standardized for use with adults who are deaf-blind; most instruments that are available have been standardized for use with children and youths. Many of the tests and procedures in use with adults yield questionable results, being borrowed from procedures developed specifically for standardized evaluation of blind, deaf, and/or general client groups. Vocational rehabilitation (VR) personnel engaged in service to adults who are deaf-blind should assign priority to the development and adaptation of vocational evaluation tests and procedures that can be used with confidence in the rehabilitation assessment of deaf-blind people. Lacking such instruments at the present time, the most effective vocational evaluation procedures available are those which rely more on the experience and observational skill of evaluation personnel and less on test data. Evaluators/instructors skilled in service to this population, as well as in adaptive vocational evaluation procedures, have proven to be the most successful in assessing the life potential and abilities of these clients.

Purpose of Vocational


Evaluations in vocational training and job placement programs have historically attempted to provide information in three areas: program or service eligibility; employability, especially for rehabilitation services; and job development and job matching assistance.

Two events have significantly changed the way professionals view vocational evaluations: first is the emergence of supported employment as a "zero exclusion" and "place and train" model; and second, the 1992 reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act, which eliminates the need for an employability determination.

The purpose of vocational evaluation should be to collect functional information about an individual's wants and needs. The data collected during the vocational evaluation process should yield a functional vocational profile of the individual and answer these questions:

* What type of job interests the individual?

* What skills does the individual have to perform the job?

* What type of supports does the individual need and want: communication supports, environmental supports, mobility supports, assistive technology, compensatory strategies?

* How much support will the individual need and for how long - short-or long-term?

Through a specialized approach to job training and placement, HKNC is demonstrating that individuals with deaf-blindness, with little or no employment history, can join the work force using an adapted model of supported employment which stresses the need for temporary, intensive and/or ongoing supports such as an employment training specialist (job coach), interpreter, or other support needs.

The HKNC's Work Experience Department has provided the motivating environment for individuals who are deaf-blind to understand the world of work. The department's overall goal is to assess students' interests, abilities, training, and support needs. Additionally, we assist VR and local employment agencies in developing and supporting individuals to obtain meaningful work activity in their home communities.

The unique vocational process at HKNC includes utilizing situational assessments.(1) Situational assessments are used to:

* identify cluster areas for training;

* obtain additional information to use in developing goals and objectives;

* discover how much the person already knows (specific tasks);

* identify what kind of prompting procedures might be most effective (learning styles and error corrections);

* develop ideas about what kind of adaptations may be needed;

* identify how the person responds to certain environmental conditions (i.e., noise, commotion, lighting, physical requirements); and

* attempt to gather information on the person's learning pace.

The training strategy is to have the student do as much of the activity as possible as soon as possible.

Because generalization is difficult, some students should not be taught skills in isolation but within activities of practical and self-meaningful value. Units for work behavior are taught and practiced which are immediately useful in daily life. Teaching a functional activity means including all the behavior necessary to initiate, perform, and terminate the activity under normal circumstances. The only way to learn work-related skills is by experiencing normal work situations, not through standardized tests and pre-vocational activities. This type of evaluation moves away from a prediction orientation and toward a training facilitation orientation. The emphasis shifts from prior learning to training needs in the here and now.

Additional information is gathered through the development of a personal profile in which maps are used in the Personal Futures Planning Process (PFP). PFP is a gathering of the most significant and influential people in a student's life, the people who commit to assisting a student to achieve his highest level of independence, personally and vocationally.

PFP generates helpful vocational information on the information you would need about a person to develop a good job match: preferences, dislikes, social conditions, hours preferred, residual hearing, vision, transportation, support needs, proximity to home, motor capabilities, communication, aids/prosthetics used.

Situational assessments provide us with information about general skills, abilities, aptitudes and interests, personality, motivation, and work tolerance (all the job readiness skills needed to succeed on a job).

During the program year ending June 30, 1994, the Work Experience Program provided 64 students with situational assessments/work experiences using both on and off campus worksites. The following is a breakdown of the vocational areas in which these clients have been trained: stock clerk, food services worker, hospital restaurant dishwasher, hospital and laundromat laundry worker, clerical worker, electronics worker, data entry (Avis World Headquarters), animal care (Long Island Science Museum), porter maintenance, horticulture, teacher's aide, recycling work, store clerk, woodworking, and lobby worker (Burger King).

Staff at HKNC are pleased with the national center's relationship with Avis in Garden City, New York. John, A recent graduate of the Work Experience Program, explored several work options and found that he preferred data entry work. He practiced inputting information on a sample AVIS customer profile form using a computer, a CCTV (closed circuit television which magnifies print), and VISTA, a special enlarged text system. After his work experience at AVIS' national headquarters proved so successful, he was offered employment and worked 2 days a week at a competitive salary rate. John returned home and began a 4-month internship for a government position in the State Group Benefits Department in Baton Rouge.

Program Outcomes

Clients who participate in the Work Experience Program leave with a "Placement Packet" which includes the following:

* copies of task analyses and training data collected on each work experience site (Training data includes job acquisition data and other data which document progress toward individual training goals - rate/productivity measures, travel training data, data collected on social or communication.);

* copies of employer evaluations and other relevant materials provided by job site personnel (i.e., letters of recommendation);

* a termination report summarizing the recommendations of program staff regarding:

- the types of jobs that have been most and least successful;

- the level of support and supervision needed, both initially and after an extended period of training;

- adaptations that have been used to complete or modify the tasks, to assist with independent scheduling or sequencing of tasks, or ways in which jobs may be restructured to allow for more independent participation;

- instructional procedures, including strategies for prompting, reinforcement, and error correction that have proven to be effective with the student;

- communication strategies used with coworkers, customers, and instructors; and

- orientation and mobility techniques used at work for community travel.


When given the opportunity to express our talents and interests, we all strive to achieve a level of success. The deaf-blind individuals who participate in the national center's Work Experience Program may be experiencing what it is like to make choices, especially vocational choices, for the first time.

There are many benefits in a functional training program:

* expanding the client's ability to explore opportunities and interests;

* seeing the student learn work skills which he/she sees are real and are used in the real work world;

* enabling the student to learn about employer expectations;

* developing problem solving skills;

* building self-esteem and a sense of worth for the student;

* providing a real work environment in which to use communication, mobility, low vision, and audiology training; and

* functional training can be used as a reference for subsequent job search/development work history.

Feedback from the field indicates that this vocational training model has significantly influenced the quality and duration of the students' future placements.

Smithdas and Morris

Awarded Migel Medals

Robert Smithdas, Associate Director of the Helen Keller National Center for the Deaf-Blind in Sands Point, NY, and Robert Morris, founder of the Helen Keller Eye Research Foundation and the Eye Injury Registry (both in Alabama), will receive the 1995 Migel Medals from the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). The awards win be presented at a ceremony and reception in their honor October 30,1995, at the Sheraton Manhattan Hotel in New York City.

The Migel Medal was established in 1937 by the late M.C. Migel, AFB's first board chairman, to honor professionals and volunteers whose dedication and achievements have significantly improved the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Two medals are awarded annually. Mr. Smithdas will receive the 1995 Professional Award; Dr. Morris is the recipient of the 1995 Volunteer Award.

A leading advocate for deaf-blind and blind people, Mr. Smithdas lost his vision and nearly all of his hearing at the age of 4 as a result of contracting cerebro-spinal meningitis. In 1950, he received his bachelor of arts degree, cum laude, from St. John's University. Three years later, he became the first deaf-blind person to earn a master's degree, specializing in vocational guidance and rehabilitation of the handicapped at New York University. "In attaining a master's degree nearly 50 years after Helen Keller had received her bachelor's degree, Dr. Smidthdas refuted the long-standing contention that no other deaf-blind person could complete a college education," said Carl R. Augusto, president of AFB. "For his achievements, his influential work, and his exemplary dedication to excellence, he is most deserving of AFB's highest honor, the Migel Medal."

In addition to his autobiography, Life at My Fingertips, Mr. Smithdas has authored two collections of poems, City of the Heart and Shared Beauty (see page). He is the recipient of honorary degrees from Gallaudet University, Western Michigan University, and his alma mater, St. John's University. Smithdas, who presently resides on Long Island, NY, is a former member of the Advisory Committee to the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board and former chairman of the Committee on Activities of Deaf-Blind People of the World Blind Union; he is presently a member of the President's Committee on Employment of People who are Disabled and retired vice president of the American Association of the Deaf-Blind.

Robert Morris, an ophthalmological surgeon specializing in retinal diseases, has contributed greatly to the training and education of medical students, ophthalmology residents, and research investigators and has published important work in the field of retinal disease and ocular trauma. His achievements as a volunteer are equally impressive. Dr. Morris is co-founder of the United States Eye Injury Registry, an organization that has had a profound impact upon understanding of the epidemiology of ocular trauma and its prevention. He is also founder and president of the Helen Keller Eye Research Foundation (HKERF), which supports clinical and research work in ophthalmology. "As president of HKERF, Dr. Morris has demonstrated a remarkable leadership ability," said Mr. Augusto. "He is absolutely committed to this foundation, leading it from an idea to a highly effective mechanism for the support of eye research and increasing the visibility of eye research in the public sector.


(1.) A limited number of opportunities (2-4 trials) to sample various job clusters to obtain information that is supplemental to the other initial evaluation procedures. Primarily, the purpose is to identify job clusters which will be targeted for community work experience and appropriate goals and objectives for subsequent training. Situational assessments may occur on or off campus but involve real work in natural settings to obtain not only information about the type of work, workers' skills, and capabilities, but also environmental conditions that may need consideration prior to placement on community work experience sites.

Ms. Mezack is a Work Experience Coordinator at the Helen Keller National Center, Sands Point, NY
COPYRIGHT 1995 U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Deaf-Blindness
Author:Mezack, Kathy
Publication:American Rehabilitation
Date:Jun 22, 1995
Previous Article:The LIFE program.
Next Article:Deep in the heart of Texas.

Related Articles
An alternative approach to employment for people with deaf-blindness.
Research and technological aids for people who are deaf-blind.
The Helen Keller National Center affiliate program.
Hiring interpreters for individuals who are deaf-blind.
Deep in the heart of Texas.
Deaf-blind education and rehabilitation in Zimbabwe.
Communication issues and strategies for deaf-blind individuals: case studies basic on etiology and language level.
The challenge to independence: severe vision and hearing loss among older adults.
New HKNC Awareness Campaign: In the Dark About People Who are Deaf-Blind?
Orientation and mobility for deaf-blind people.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |